My Local Planning Authority has asked for a great crested newt survey – Do I really need one?
When a planning application for construction near to a pond is received by a Local Planning Authority (LPA), they may request that a newt survey is completed to support your application.
Great crested newts are protected under the Habitat Regulations 2017 This legislation protects great crested newts and their ‘resting places’ (which can be any habitat that they are found in). The LPA has duty to consider impacts on great crested newts (and other species and habitats) when deciding on a planning application.
Even if there isn’t a pond on your site, we need to consider that newts spend most of their life on land and can travel considerable distances. Habitats such as hedges, shrubs, compost heaps, rubble piles, tall or tussocky grass, scrub and woodland can all support great crested newts.
How close to a pond does the project need to be?
Natural England standing advice states that you should survey for great crested newts if:
- historical records suggest newts may be present
- there’s a pond within 500 metres of the development, even if it only holds water some of the year
- the development site includes refuges (e.g. log piles or rubble), grassland, scrub, woodland or hedgerows
Great crested newts may be present even if:
- the site has been ploughed, soil stripped or had ponds filled in within the last 4 years
- the breeding pond was destroyed several years ago
- the pond is muddy, heavily shaded or vegetated
- the pond contains fish
- the pond is temporary
Is there a way round this?
We are often able to limit the survey area for ponds to 250m rather than 500m and we more often than not scope out the need to consider newts entirely where we can argue that the suitable habitat within the site is small, there are barriers to prevent newts from dispersing from the pond to the site or that the proposed building works would not be harmful to newts.
You may also be able to consider District Licencing – this is an approach where the LPA holds a development licence for projects in their area and developers pay into the scheme to fund mitigation. This means that surveys can be avoided, which can save time but on site mitigation may still be required. We will be writing a blog post on this shortly. At the time of writing, great crested newt district licences are only available in Kent, Woking Borough and the South Midlands – Aylesbury Vale, Bedford, Central Bedfordshire, Milton Keynes, Oxford, South Oxfordshire, Vale of White Horse.
Standard great crested newt surveys
Standard great crested newt surveys can be undertaken between mid-March and mid-July, and half of the visits need to be completed between mid-April and mid-May.
If you just need to show whether newts are likely to be present or not, four visits are required. If you need to show how large a population is, six visits are needed.
Great crested newt eDNA surveys
eDNA surveys, where water samples are taken from a pond and sent for lab analysis, can be completed between mid-April and the end of June. This will tell us whether newts are present in a pond, but can’t help with a population size estimate.
More information on great crested newt surveys can be found here.
To book a great crested newt survey, click here.
My Local Planning Authority has asked for a bat survey – Do I really need one?
If you are submitting a planning application that will involve the demolition of a building, modification of the roof line, or felling mature trees, you may be asked by your Local Planning Authority (LPA) to provide a Preliminary Bat Assessment (bat survey) to go with your application.
We have found that many LPAs are now not registering applications that do not have a bat report.
All British bat species are protected under the Habitat Regulations 2017 This legislation protects that bats and their roosting habitats and the LPA also have a legal duty to consider impacts on bats (and other species and habitats) when deciding on a planning application.
Some LPAs apply a risk assessment to the property based on parameters like the distance to woodland or water, or the age of the building before requesting that you supply a survey. In reality though, bats can roost in brand new buildings or in the middle of urban areas, so this risk based approach isn’t always going to be accurate.
Many of our clients are confident that they do not have a bat roost in their property. They may have lived or worked there for many years and never seen a bat. However, bats don’t just roost in lofts where you might see them. For example most bat roosts on residential buildings are between roof tiles and the weatherproof membrane, or behind hanging tiles. Many of these roosts are a single bat, who may occupy the roost for only part of the summer and can be very difficult to detect. Unfortunately the LPA is unlikely to consider that an applicant’s account is sufficient and a professional bat survey will be required.
It is worth noting that even if the LPA don’t ask for a bat survey, you may be well advised to undertaken one anyway to protect yourself legally – if you damage a bat roost this would be an offence, even if you are acting on a granted planning permission. If you were to have an appropriate survey and found bats early in the project, you can put appropriate mitigation and licencing in place to keep everything above board.
I’m Submitting a Planning Application – Will I Need To Do An Ecology Survey?
If your planning application is in the UK, the chances are that the Local Planning Authority (LPA) will request that you demonstrate whether you project will have impacts on biodiversity.
LPAs have a legal duty to pay ‘due regard’ to certain protected species when considering planning applications. There are also national and local planning policies that require the protection of ecology and mitigation of harm. They are not able to consider the ecological impact of the project, unless they are supplied with relevant information from you.
Typically this is a Preliminary Ecological Appraisal, and for projects where there are risks to important species and habitats, an Ecological Impact Assessment (EcIA) may be needed (although to save time and money, we tend to roll these two reports into one for smaller schemes).
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We work as a part of your team, with your goals in mind.